Peshawar, Feb 1: Pakistan has refused to grant identity cards to the family of Shakeel Afridi, the jailed doctor who helped the CIA hunt for Osama bin Laden, his lawyer said, effectively denying them passports and voting rights.
Afridi has been languishing in prison for more than five years after his fake vaccination programme helped the CIA track and kill the Al Qaeda leader. His lawyer Qamar Nadim told AFP today that officials are refusing to renew Afridi's wife's ID card, which expired in December, because her husband's card had lapsed in 2014.
He has also been denied a new card. Officials are similarly refusing to grant new cards to his two children, said Nadim, who has been denied access to his client for more than two years. ID cards in Pakistan are a key proof of citizenship. Without one, Pakistanis cannot get passports or vote, register for a phone number or get utilities installed, buy property or enrol children in school, and could face delays at security checkpoints, among other things.
"Why are they punishing the entire family? It's not justice, it's cruelty," Nadim said, adding he will challenge the decision in court in the northwestern city of Peshawar this week. Officials from the interior ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The refusal to grant ID cards means Afridi's son and daughter are now facing problems getting admission to college, the doctor's brother Jamil told AFP. "So the family can't go abroad and the children are facing difficulties in continuing their education," he said. Afridi was jailed for 33 years in May 2012 after he was convicted of ties to militants, a charge he has always denied.
Some US lawmakers said the case was revenge for his help in the search for the Al Qaeda chief. Last year a US threat to cut aid to Pakistan saw a tribunal slice 10 years off his sentence -- but since then US pressure for his release has tapered off. US President Donald Trump vowed during his election campaign in May last year that he would order Pakistan to free Afridi.
"I'm sure they would let them (him) out. Because we give a lot of aid to Pakistan," Trump told Fox News at the time, adding that Pakistan "takes advantage like everybody else". The comments sparked a blistering rebuttal from Pakistan, whose interior minister at the time branded Trump "ignorant" and stated the "government of Pakistan and not Donald Trump" would decide Afridi's fate.